For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.’ ~ Isaiah 55:12
ONE EARLY MORNING IN MAY
It is four-thirty in the morning. My windows are open due to an unseasonable heat wave. While darkness remains, the air is cool and still: not a leaf flutters. Yet the birds have begun their morning songs-of-praise. This is a sacred hour for me, regardless of the season.
I make a mug of freshly brewed Scottish breakfast tea, stack my Bible and related reading next to me, and begin to dig into the day’s devotionals, prayers, and Scripture. Abbey, my cat, is wide-eyed and wants to play. However, with a reluctant resignation she jumps onto my chair and settles next to me for a snooze. The readings are oft times ‘rabbit runs’: a back-and-forth flip between Old and New Testaments with study notes suggesting further support, or amplification of context, a verse, even one word. For me, it is not merely slamming through a reading session: I have an unquenchable thirst to understand more deeply; to fill myself with His Word.
Even so, thoughts of Patricia weave their way into the threads of my study, which finally unravel my concentration. I give in to what is on my heart. Patricia was my next-door neighbor for the past three years in the apartment building in which I live. She now lies in a nursing home in Albany, New York. Though acutely aware of her surroundings, hearing everything, Patricia is unable to move: She is trapped in her body from a massive stroke. She can speak but with great effort, and then only one whispered word at a time. On rare occasions she utters a short, audible phrase. She appears to be blind, though no one confirms this. Her eyes are closed most of the time for it hurts her to keep them open. When she does look at me her eyes no longer possess light; a light that once gleamed with warmth and humor. Though the nursing home is not a hospice, Patricia has entered into end-of-care-living.
During my recent visit, Patricia agreed to my wheeling her into the lush, sculpted gardens surrounding the home. It was a seventy-degree day with breeze enough to gently lift her hair, now soft and white as goose down feathers. She slumps to one side in her chair; the side most affected by the stroke. I was told she eats very little, but some of what she consumes dribbles out of the left corner of her mouth. I clean her as it happens. Once we were settled in full shade, I described the grounds: fully leafed trees following a cold, wet spring; colorful annuals and the scent of freshly dug earth; and the abundant new-green-of-spring seemingly everywhere the eye could see. Patricia took my hand with her barely functional right arm, folding her cool fingers around it. I stroked her forehead, realizing she needed gentle, loving touch; not just the pro forma, though well-meaning, handling of the ministering nurses and aides.
Patricia loves her Bible, so I read selected verses to her while small rivulets of tears made their pilgrimage down her beautiful, smooth-skinned face. I asked if she wanted me to stop, and she whispered, no. I flipped to Isaiah and read the above verse, ending with … and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. She smiled and opened her eyes, saying, happy trees! I replied, yes, they are happy trees.
Patricia maintains a strong will to live. I bore witness for three years to her ‘fierce grace,’ refusing to relinquish independence as several mini-strokes claimed her body. Yet, I also observed decline in her physical strength and mental acuity. Now, there is no prognosis for a meaningful recovery — or so says the conventional, human wisdom.
Wheeling her back to her room, I commented that I forgot my camera to take photographs of the gardens. She looked straight into my eyes with an opaque stare and said, take them at our home in Athens. Take ten.
What was most noticeable to me during this visit was that something within Patricia had changed. It appeared she lost her ferocity to ‘be,’ hence, her hope. When we settled her into bed, she articulated a fully audible sentence that took my breath away: I am still here, but people treat me as if I’m dead. Then she slipped into another place and time, murmuring words and phrases I no longer understood. I sensed Patricia was struggling for inner resolve and hope. So many, myself included, have prayed she goes to the Lord soon. But, she endures at the time of this writing with a strong heart, healthy lungs, keen hearing as well as awareness. No! We should pray for healing: a healing that will give days or hours or a month or more to say goodbye with gratitude and clarity; set the outstanding questions of her affairs in order; see and speak with her sons as well as her friends; and to read, contemplate, and pray as she did for the past three years, to prepare for her final journey.
THE PHOTOS … THOUGH NOT QUITE ‘TEN’
I confess I do not know what the number ‘ten’ means to Patricia, but I kept my promise concerning the photographs. Not ten as requested, but enough. At least I will be able to tell her that I did as she wished. These images are all from the property that surrounds our apartment building: birds, trees, flowers, et al.
A LIFE PURPOSE?
Given last month’s Journal post, Even A Lioness Dies, and now this month concerning Patricia, you might think I am spending my life in hospices. Yes and no. I confess I have never been a wholly selfless being. I do feel a strong tug to do something more within these environments — these places for the infirm, sick, and dying. What or how or when, I do not know. Fear of disease, the ‘surprise of pain,’ and the process of dying, not death itself, prevails even among those strong in faith. One’s presence to listen, hold a hand, read, stroke a forehead, and pray, can help palliate these fears. Yet, there is so much more to loving these dear people: It involves their souls, their spirits, sharing the Truth of God, and helping them die into faith. Yes!, die into eternal life with Jesus. So, here I am with a tug, perhaps a true calling, I could not conceive of for myself — though it is what God has given me to do for now. Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your Truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation: on You I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25: 4-5).
‘CONFESSING’ A PROMISE FOR PATRICIA
As my wandering thoughts found focus in my studies once again, I came upon two scriptures, two of many Promises of God (no accident I am sure), since the revelation of ‘healing’ visited my heart: Isaiah 53:4-5 and Psalm 103:2-3, both harbingers of the Great Physician’s Promises to heal. The Bible tells us that Death and Life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). The Word also tells us to “speak to the mountain about sickness, disease, poverty, confusion, and more ” — a continual confessing of God’s promises until it leaves. What we say becomes a part of our lives, positive or negative.
Patricia, as intercessor in prayer, I confess these Promises of healing from God’s Word for you. His Grace will fill you and touch every bone, cell, and molecule in your body, mind, heart, and spirit. You will have peace within. You will have fluid movement throughout your body. You will speak with ease and clarity. Your eyes will see fully and shine with His living, loving Light within once again. These, His promises, I claim for you:
4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And by His stripes Patricia is healed.
Psalm 103: 2-3
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives Patricia’s iniquities, Who heals all her diseases.
According to His promises, His sacred words will manifest in your behalf. In Jesus’ name I pray. His Will be done … Amen!
Have a glorious, healthy, peace-filled summer! I will return when the autumnal extravaganza begins. In the next little while, I will be writing my book full time, ministering to Patricia, and others God may send my way, and most important, loving Jesus, following His Way, Truth, and Life as best I can.
May our Lord richly bless and keep each of you, especially the infirm, sick and dying, in His strong, loving care ….